Curious to Know How You Can Become a TMS Technician?
January 8, 2021
Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a growing psychiatric treatment option that has shown evidence of successfully treating mental disorder symptoms in patients resistant to psychiatric medication. The efficacy of TMS treatment is dependent on the teams of physicians and administrative staff that work together to optimize symptom relief in patients while providing a smooth patient care experience.
TMS therapy can provide a rewarding career experience for those who are passionate about TMS treatment. Don’t worry about having to get into med school or working up an extensive resume if you’re interested in working with TMS. Read down below to learn the essentials about pursuing a career as a TMS technician:
- What is TMS Therapy?
- What TMS Technicians Do
- How to Become TMS Technician
What to Know About TMS
The therapeutic mechanisms behind TMS are based on the delivery of electromagnetic pulses that transmit through the human skull. The transmission of electricity through a metal coil can create a magnetic field that influences activity levels in areas of the brain. Since the brain’s mode of communication relies on electrical currents to influence its vital functions, the pulses transmitted by a TMS device can adjust areas of irregular neuronal activity in the brain. TMS devices function around a treatment coil that is suspended safely and securely over a patient’s head, and a succession of clicking sounds signifies the electromagnetic pulses targeting the brain.
Psychiatric research completed in the mid-1900s compiled data supporting TMS therapy’s treatment of depression symptoms. The participants in these studies displayed significant improvement in mood that was similar to the effects of antidepressant medication.
The psychiatric science behind TMS therapy became further supported by decades of research studies, leading to the FDA approving the first TMS equipment in 2008. An essential indication that was required to receive the treatment was that TMS was allocated to mental disorder patients who failed to respond positively to psychiatric medication.
Following the psychiatric studies that substantiated the therapeutic effects of TMS for major depression patients, researchers continued to study the treatment method’s effects on other mental disorder diagnoses.
Over the years, research studies have provided evidence of the therapeutic effects of TMS therapy on major depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. TMS therapy can successfully target and adjust the areas of the brain affiliated with symptoms of these mental disorders.
The Experience of TMS Therapy Treatment
Patients typically receive TMS therapy in a medical office or outpatient TMS clinic. TMS treatment involves a series of TMS sessions to successfully improve mental disorder symptoms, and the duration of these individual sessions differs per patient treatment plan.
TMS providers keep track of patients’ responses to TMS therapy, and it can take anywhere between three to four weeks for the effects of TMS to become noticeable. In cases where no significant change in mood or symptoms become noticeable after a month, a TMS technician can perform a remapping session to readjust components of the patient’s treatment plan.
The treatment progress of a TMS patient is typically assessed using a weekly questionnaire completed by a certified TMS technician. The list of questions measures the severity of patients’ mental disorder symptoms. The TMS technician also assesses the patient for signs of symptoms to determine the success of symptom relief. Psychiatrists and researchers have helped build the foundation of TMS therapy, and TMS technicians apply psychiatric knowledge in helping patients.
What TMS Technicians Do
TMS technicians are key in running the office or clinic of TMS providers. Their duties span from clerical and interpersonal to medical and patient care. Their role in providing TMS treatment and patient care makes their job incredibly important and impactful--and luckily the qualifications for becoming a TMS tech aren’t impossible to attain.
Typically, the first person TMS patients make contact with are TMS technicians working the receptionist desk. Aside from coordinating patient services for TMS providers, TMS techs complete a variety of administrative tasks. These tasks commonly include scheduling patient appointments with medical scheduling software, collecting patient payments for treatment, and abiding by HIPAA laws in managing medical records.
TMS techs work closely with administrators and physicians to ensure the best treatment care experience for each patient. It’s essential for techs to have interpersonal skills and sincere motivation to help those struggling with mental disorder symptoms.
The experience of TMS as a noninvasive method of brain stimulation treatment involves safe and well-tolerated sessions performed by TMS techs. Unlike in the case of electroconvulsive therapy, the TMS tech doesn’t have to use anesthesia on patients.
During an initial TMS treatment appointment, patients are seated in a reclining chair and handed earplugs to wear during the procedure. Then the technician places the electromagnetic coil of the TMS device against the patient’s head while determining the most effective placement of the coil for treatment. This is called the mapping process and involves the TMS device repeatedly turning off and on as tapping or clicking sounds result in a tapping sensation on the patient’s scalp. The TMS tech will encourage the patient to remain still throughout the procedure to ensure that the skull doesn’t miss any electromagnetic pulses.
With the pulses, the TMS technician will test to find the patient’s motor threshold, which is the dose of electromagnetic pulses that causes the fingers or hands to twitch. This will help customize the procedure for each patient and ensure that there is as little discomfort as possible for patients.
Working with a clinical population always requires understanding and sensitivity toward the patient’s experiences. Being able to comprehend and provide appropriate support is vital for the role of a TMS tech.
- Active listening
A successful TMS tech must be able to understand and determine the severity of patients’ symptoms. It’s important that a technician actively and sincerely listens to the information provided by patients.
- Attention to detail
Since TMS techs have to assess patients for frequency and severity of symptoms with each session, they must be skilled at reading between the lines and noticing traits in patients that are indicative of their treatment plan’s efficacy.
Having skills in performing basic clerical and administrative tasks is key to providing adequate TMS patient care. Accurately filing medical records and processing patient payments are some of the essential TMS tech duties that keeps a TMS provider running operations smoothly.
- Mental health knowledge
Understanding the foundational information regarding mental disorders and treatment is always essential for those who work with psychiatric populations. Having this basic knowledge makes it easier for TMS techs to navigate conversations with and treatment for patients.
- TMS training
Operating a TMS device is one of the key duties of a technician, especially in consideration of a patient’s comfort and symptoms. Luckily, TMS training is accessible to those who are interested in becoming technicians.
How to Become a Certified TMS Technician
The role of the TMS technician is incredibly valuable to TMS providers and patients. Working as a TMS technician can be a rewarding experience, and it doesn’t require jumping through a lot of hoops to work in TMS therapy. With the right background and training, TMS technician skills can be at your fingertips.
The first step in becoming a certified TMS technician is having a background in healthcare, psychology, psychiatry, or medicine. Having an associate’s or bachelor's degree in one of these areas is a common prerequisite for most TMS technician positions. Prior experience working in a psychiatric facility or medical office are typically required by TMS tech jobs as well.
The next step is becoming certified as a TMS technician. Those interested in certification can complete it through a course or seminar that teaches the essential information and training necessary for providing TMS therapy. Participants typically learn about the history of TMS, its treatment efficacy for specific mental disorders, and the administrative aspects of TMS providers. This is typically followed by hands-on training with TMS equipment and tests assessing knowledge of the TMS information.
Courses can be completed as seminars or online, but training and assessment are typically in-person. In-person courses and seminars usually last over the course of a few days. A certificate of completion is awarded after passing the assessments. Universities and TMS therapy organizations often offer certification opportunities. Some TMS providers also offer on-the-job certification and training for those with related background and experience.
If you have a passion for helping others, growing your understanding of mental health treatment, and performing administrative tasks, you have some of the most essential traits of a TMS technician. Under the guidance of trained psychiatrists, TMS technicians are able to help transform the mental health and livelihood of treatment-resistant psychiatric patients.